Exiled Uighurs condemn Chinese beer festival

Beer festival in Xinjiang seen as provocation by local and exiled Uighurs

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Chinese authorities' decision to hold a beer festival in the highly-Muslim populated region of Xinjiang, otherwise known as East Turkestan, just before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, has irked the Uighur community at home and abroad.

The event was held in a village in Niya County in southern Xinjiang last Monday, days before the holy month Ramadan started. The event was called an "open provocation" by an exiled Uighur group.

Niya County is overwhelmingly populated by the native Muslim Uighur people. Officials said that Muslims were not demanded to consume beer, but the event was meant to "use modern culture to brighten up the village's cultural life, squeeze the space for illegal religious promotion ... and guarantee the village's harmony and stability," Reuters reported.

The regional government's website published the details of "beer drinking competition," which was attended by dozens and offering cash awards of up to 1,000 yuan ($161).

"This is an open provocation to the Islamic faith," Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled group the World Uyghur Congress, said while condemning the event.

China have imposed restrictions on Uighur Muslims during Ramadan, including a repeating ban on fasting for students, teachers and government officials and halal restaurants have been ordered to stay open.

The Communist party has also recently ordered Uighurs to stock and sell alcohol and cigarettes in attractive displays. Uighurs are also being prevented from practising their faith openly or teach their children the Quran.

Beards and headscarves are banned, while officials and people younger than 18 are not allowed to participate in religious activities.

"China is increasing its bans and monitoring as Ramadan approaches. The faith of the Uighurs has been highly politicised, and the increase in controls could cause sharp resistance," Raxit said in an earlier statement quoted by Reuters.

Hundreds of people have been killed in unrest in Xinjiang in the past two years, where China's repressive policies - including controls on religion and Uighur culture - have intensified.

Analysts say most of the economic benefits of the strategic region, which is crucial for China's growing energy needs, have gone to the Han Chinese - the country's biggest ethnic group - stoking resentment among Uighurs.

Xinjiang, on the borders of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, is the historic home to the Uighur people who speak a Turkic language.

TRTWorld and agencies